If last night is any indication, Half Hollow Hills West will be at home on the road this season.
From the moment the Colts arrived at Eastport-South Manor High School for their season opener, it was clear this was no ordinary road game and this will be no ordinary season. "I walked into the school and one [ESM] kid rushed over and asked for my autograph," Tobias Harris said. "Then there was a swarm of kids and I wound up signing for 15 or 20 minutes."
Packed houses on the road are likely to be the norm. Everyone is curious about Hills West and its deep, talented team filled with several Division I college prospects. "It'll be fun for them to play before crowds like this on the road every night," said Chris Carlson, coach of the Sharks (1-3). "It's great for Suffolk County basketball. It'll be a long time before we see a team like this again."
Hills West scored the first 14 points of the game and after that, it was just a matter of how big the margin of victory would be. Harris scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, his brother Tyler added 16 before aggravating a bruised hip in the third quarter, and the Colts romped, 83-41, before a full house estimated at 1,200.
"All the bleachers weren't pulled out when we came here last year," grinned Colts coach Bill Mitaritonna.
The buzz began in warm-ups. Every time 6-8 Tobias Harris dunked, the crowd erupted. It was obvious whom they came to see. The buzz continued once the game began. Whenever Harris, or athletic 5-9 guard Tavon Sledge (12 points, three dunks) got free on a fast break, there was an air of anticipation. You almost expected fans to hold up placards with numbers on them to rate the various Hills West dunks.
"I haven't seen a gym like this since I was a freshman at Archbishop Molloy in 1987 when Kenny Anderson was a sophomore," Mitaritonna said. "Wherever we went, the crowd was anticipating something special."
The first quarter belonged to Tyler Harris, as the 6-7 junior scored nine points, including a layup that delighted the fans because it came on a behind-the-back pass from his brother. Tobias Harris put his stamp on the game with an 11-point second quarter that featured two coast-to-coast, crowd-on-its-feet dunks.
"I couldn't believe how the fans reacted," Mitaritonna said. "Chris told me before the game everyone on the East End will be here. It felt like it."
Harris didn't play the fourth quarter, with the Colts leading 74-29 after three, and many fans exited early. When the game was over, it was the ESM cheerleaders who gathered around the visiting team's star, asking him to pose for pictures.
Said Harris, "Definitely cool."